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Ground-based midcourse defense (GMD)

Definition Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) is a component of the United States’ ballistic missile defense system. It’s designed to intercept and destroy long-range ballistic missiles during their midcourse phase of flight, using ground-based interceptor (GBI) missiles. The main goal of GMD is to protect the U.S. homeland from potential missile threats, particularly those coming from […]


Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) is a component of the United States’ ballistic missile defense system. It’s designed to intercept and destroy long-range ballistic missiles during their midcourse phase of flight, using ground-based interceptor (GBI) missiles. The main goal of GMD is to protect the U.S. homeland from potential missile threats, particularly those coming from rogue states.

Key Takeaways

  1. The Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) is a United States’ anti-ballistic missile system for intercepting ballistic missiles during the midcourse phase of their flight, when they are at their highest point outside the earth’s atmosphere.
  2. The GMD consists of ground-based interceptor missiles and radar which together form an integrated system for detecting, tracking, intercepting, and destroying ballistic missile threats.
  3. GMD largely operates from U.S military bases in Alaska and California. It is a crucial part of the U.S.’s defensive strategy against the threat of ballistic missile attacks, thus ensuring national security.


Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) serves a crucial role in the sphere of military operations, particularly in terms of national security and protection against potential threats.

Specifically, GMD is a key component of the United States’ ballistic missile defense system designed to intercept and destroy incoming long-range ballistic missiles in their midcourse phase of flight.

This system’s importance draws primarily from its capability to provide a robust and reliable layer of defense, thus reducing the risk of catastrophic damages that these missiles can otherwise inflict.

Therefore, the GMD ensures a secure environment, acting as a deterrent to hostile entities, and strengthening the defense strategy in the face of evolving global threats.


Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) is a crucial aspect of our military operations, designed with the sole intent of protecting against hostile long-range ballistic missile threats. It serves as an integral part of our nation’s missile defense system by detecting, intercepting, and subsequently destroying incoming missile threats while they’re still in space, in the midcourse phase of their flight.

Employing advanced radar tracking and ground-based interceptor (GBI) missiles, GMD aims to provide a reliable means of neutralizing potential threats before they reach their target. GMD is structured to provide relentless and robust defense to the United States against the escalating threat of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons.

The system is put in place to handle the threats enabled by ballistic missiles aimed at massively populated areas, critical infrastructures, or military bases. GMD is not an offensive system; instead, it is specifically designed to act as a shield, countering and defending against potential threats to maximize the security and safety of the nation.

Examples of Ground-based midcourse defense (GMD)

Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, USA: The US military operation in California uses Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) as part of their defense strategy. The operation involves the use of ground-based interceptor missiles to counter enemy intercontinental ballistic missiles during the midcourse phase of their flight.

Fort Greely, Alaska, USA: The Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system at Fort Greely is an essential part of United States defense strategy. Fort Greely currently houses around 40 ground-based interceptor missiles, signaling its importance in the country’s defense structure against potential missile threats.

Missile Defense Test in 2017: On May 30, 2017, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) conducted a successful test of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) element of the nation’s Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS). During this test, an unarmed ICBM was launched from the Marshall Islands and was successfully intercepted by a ground-based interceptor launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base. This was a real-world demonstration of how GMD could potentially be used in a defensive scenario.

Frequently Asked Questions about Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD)

What is Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD)?

Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) is an element of the United States ballistic missile defense system that provides capability to engage and destroy intermediate- and long-range ballistic missile threats in space to protect the U.S. homeland. It’s designed to defend the United States mainland against limited nuclear attack.

How does GMD work?

GMD system functions on the hit-to-kill ethos which involves eliminating the incoming threats by direct collision with them during the midcourse phase of the enemy ballistic missile flight. The Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI) is launched into space using a multi-stage solid rocket booster, after which the Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV) separates from the booster and using its onboard sensors, it seeks out and destroys the threat by sheer force of collision.

Where are GMD systems located?

GMD systems are primarily located in Fort Greely, Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The system also includes radars, other sensors, command and control facilities, communications terminals and a 20,000-mile fiber optic communications network.

How effective is the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system?

The effectiveness of GMD is a subject of debate. The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) claims a success rate of about 83% for all GBI tests. However, critics argue that tests do not accurately simulate real-world conditions. The system’s capability is continuously being improved to adapt to evolving threats.

What are the future plans for GMD?

The future plans for GMD includes enhancing its reliability, capacity and capability. The Missile Defense Agency is pursuing development of a new kill vehicle, the Redesigned Kill Vehicle (RKV), and a new radar, the Long Range Discrimination Radar (LRDR), to improve discrimination capabilities and battle-space along with investigations into spaced-based sensors.

Related Military Operation Terms

  • Interceptor Missiles
  • Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS)
  • Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV)
  • Ground-Based Interceptor (GBI)
  • Missile Defense Agency (MDA)

Sources for More Information

Sure, here are four reliable sources for information about Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD):

  • Missile Defense Agency (MDA): The MDA is a part of the United States Department of Defense and its function is to develop a missile defense system to defend the United States and its allies.
  • Federation of American Scientists (FAS): FAS provides science-based analysis of and solutions to protect against catastrophic threats to national and international security.
  • Boeing: Boeing is an American multinational corporation that designs, manufactures, and sells a variety of defense, space, and security systems around the globe, including the GMD.
  • RAND Corporation: The RAND Corporation is a research organization that provides objective research and analysis in areas of public policy, including defense strategies.

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